California’s First Congressional Representative

George W. Wright of Nantucket was the first representative to Congress from California after that state’s admission to the Union in 1850.

Wright (1816–1885), a native of Concord, Massachusetts, moved to Nantucket in the 1840s and was, for a time, one of the proprietors of the Gosnold House on Washington Street, a hotel that was among the businesses destroyed in the Great Fire of 1846. In 1844, he married Mary G. Swain, a granddaughter of island whale-oil merchant Joseph Starbuck, and niece and adopted daughter of oil merchant William Hadwen. Hadwen built the couple a grand Greek Revival House on Main Street next to his own house, and they, in turn, named their children, William (1845–1849) and Eunice (1847–1900), for Hadwen and his wife.

Silver doorplate from 94 Main Street, the house of George W. and Mary G. Wright
Gift of Allen Coffin
1897.327.1

George Wright left the island for California in 1849, where, among other mercantile interests, he became one of the founders of the infamous Palmer, Cook and Company, a lucrative and unscrupulous banking house in San Francisco. In 1850 he was elected to Congress as an independent. He and his wife later lived in Washington, D.C., and Dorchester, Massachusetts.

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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